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Showing love for our pollinators in our gardens this spring.

Our pollinators are a vital part of biodiversity. Species such as bees, hoverflies, moths, and butterflies are a welcome sight in our gardens, parks, and countryside and we can all contribute something to making our gardens more pollinator-friendly. This is crucial as bee numbers are seriously under threat.

“We Don’t Need to Save Honey Bees”

The truth is bees do need help, but not really honey bees (the ones that live in hives). “Save the bees!” has been a call to action that many of us have heard for years. There has been an increase in public awareness around the declining bee populations and with the global bee population having dropped 25% since the 1990s there is serious cause for concern.

Unlike managed honey bees in housed hives, there is no backup option for wild bees. Climate change, pesticides, disease, and habitat loss are all factors that are driving the wild bee population down and in turn reducing pollination. Not only are wild pollinators facing risks from humans but also from managed bees whose populations can sometimes out-compete wild bees for resources. (Source Medium)

“If we lose the insects then everything is going to collapse,” says Prof Dave Goulson of Sussex University, UK.

There is a clear warning of an 'Ecological Armageddon' after a dramatic plunge in insect numbers on a global scale. Three-quarters of flying insects in nature reserves across Germany have vanished in 25 years, with serious implications for all life on Earth, scientists say.

The good news – there is lots you can do to help

Start with your own home or community

Plant flowers and plants at home. Your local garden centres will be sure to stock a multitude of pollinator-friendly plants. If you are unsure which plants pollinators bees and butterflies like best, just look around during the spring and summer months and see which plants are attracting most bees and butterflies. When you are food shopping - if you can buy organic fruit and vegetables as they are pesticide free. Farm pesticides can kill a lot of bees.

If you're planning your spring and summer garden, there are lots of ideas you can implement to make your space more pollinator friendly.

Here are some tips for gardening for pollinators this spring in your garden!

  • Avoid using pesticides in your garden as they can kill bees and other pollinators.

  • Plant a tree, shrub, or native hedgerow. Add a pollinator-friendly shrub or tree to your garden that will flower and provide food and shelter for pollinators for years to come.

  • Plant pollinator-friendly bulbs to help safeguard the future of our vital bee population. Choose flowers and plants that are rich in pollen and nectar.

  • Plant flowers and plants at home. Your local garden centres are full of pollinator-friendly plants. Daffodils, Tulips, Begonias, and Petunias are of little value but there are lots of great options that make nectar and pollen readily available such as Borage, Butterfly, Bush, Coneflower, Cow Parsnip, Dahlia, and Sunflowers are great!

  • Bee Hotels. Have fun building bee nesting sites. Erecting a small bee hotel for cavity-nesting bees is a great idea at this time of year or expose a south/east facing bank by removing vegetation for mining bees

  • Dandelions are a superfood for pollinators. Try to avoid cutting grass while dandelions are flowering in March and April, you will be helping provide much-needed food for early pollinators.

  • Start ‘No Mow May’ early!! (see more below)

The incredible, indelible, and edible Dandelion!

The dandelion flower opens up to greet the morning and closes to go to sleep at night and is said to represent the three celestial bodies…the sun, moon, and stars. The yellow flowers resemble the sun, the puff-ball resembles the moon in the dispersing seeds resemble the stars.

So maybe the next time you see the pesky little flower in your yard or by the roadside, you’ll think about it differently!

Dandelions are the bane of the manicured green lawn enthusiast. Try as one might, this hearty plant cannot be eliminated! They are, quite possibly, the most successful plants that exist…masters of survival.

Super Dandelion Facts

*It has the longest flowering season of any other plant in botany.

*Its little parachute seeds can be carried in the wind up to 5 miles from its origin.

*Unlike other flowers it does not need to be pollinated in order to form seeds.

*Dandelions can grow up to a foot tall, but if you mow them they will grow a shorter stalk for survival and to spite you.

A not-so-fun fact:

We spend millions of dollars every year on fertilizers and pesticides to have uniform lawns of non-native grasses, and use almost 30% of the nation's water supply to keep them green!

Refine your perception of beauty, let your garden go wild, and bustle with the beauty of nature.

(Text on dandelions with thanks to Bill Thompson - we appreciate your contributions!)

The All-Ireland Pollinator Plan

One-third of our bee species are threatened with extinction from Ireland. This is because we have drastically reduced the amount of food (flowers) and safe nesting sites in our landscapes. The All-Ireland Pollinator Plan is about all of us, from farmers to local authorities to schools, gardeners, and businesses, coming together to try to create an Ireland where pollinators can survive and thrive.

"In an era defined by the great environmental challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change, it has never been more important to remember that the most powerful antidote to despair is action."

This is why the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan is such a significant publication: not only does it detail the 186 science-based actions we need to take to reverse pollinator decline, it translates them in a range of clear and creative ways that enable all sectors of society – schools, communities, farmers, businesses, gardeners, local authorities, etc. to get involved in pollinator conservation.

“Hedgerows are Ireland’s Rainforests”

Hedgerows provide food and shelter for insects, birds, and other animals, forming corridors that permit wildlife to move between habitats. They have a huge benefit to the landscape and biodiversity.

Bumblebees will shelter within the grass and bottom of hedgerows over winter and pollinators use them as a flight path for protection and as corridors connecting habitats.

One of the most positive things we can do for biodiversity is to let them grow, and not cut them back to a point where they are deemed almost useless for our pollinators and wildlife.

Hedgerows can also assist in the fight against climate change. Each kilometer of a new hedgerow has the capacity to store 600 to 800 kilograms [1,323 to 1,764 pounds] of carbon dioxide per year for up to 20 years.

Leaving hedges untrimmed in rural areas for 3 or 4 years is ideal as it allows the hawthorn to blossom, and provides nectar for pollinators to flourish. As part of the Wildlife Amendment Act in Ireland, hedges cannot be cut between March 1st and August 31st.

How about getting started early on 'No Mow May'

At this time of year, we try to inspire you to commit to leaving the lawnmower in the shed and to mow less and at different lengths and frequencies through the summer to create a mosaic of habitats that benefit wildflowers, bees, and other insects. Mowing less can encourage pollen and nectar-rich wildflowers in a lawn, attract pollinators to your garden and produce a beautiful picturesque landscape.

‘No Mow May’ is a campaign that encourages gardeners not to mow their lawns during the month of May (and to mow their lawns less overall) in order to let wildflowers bloom and provide a nectar feast for pollinators such as honeybees, bumblebees, and solitary bees, butterflies and moths, and beetles.

This may be the easiest campaign you ever join. Just sit back and watch the grass grow. No work is involved. The wildflowers such as clover, dandelions, and other flowers that grow will provide food and energy (from nectar) for early pollinators.

The bees and pollinators will thank you for it!!

“This isn’t just about losing wonders of nature. With the loss of even the smallest organisms, we destabilise and ultimately risk collapsing the world’s ecosystems – the networks that support the whole of life on Earth."

David Attenborough on biodiversity loss.

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